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Critique my design

IrishGuyJohn | Posted in General Questions on

I’m building in Zone 4A.  Attached is a design I’ve created.  I’d appreciate any suggestions.  The east and west elevations each have two windows on the main level.  The house will be built into a south facing hill.  The roof pitch is 10/12. 

The cathedral ceiling over the great room is 11 7/8″ engineered I beams and the loft area is using a truss roof system. 

The foundation will be poured concrete. 

I will be challenged finding a builder that will use unconventional techniques as it is rural and all the good builders are busy right now.  I hope to break ground in the spring.


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  1. brendanalbano | | #1

    Putting north arrows on every plan and labeling the elevations with the cardinal direction (e.g. "North Elevation") will help everyone out. It looks like the elevations are labelled in the filenames, but putting on the drawings themselves will increase the clarity.

    You might get more useful critique if you share a little more about the program, the site, the goals of the project, etc.

    Who is living here? A family? How many adults/kids? Is there a master bedroom/kids bedroom/guest bedroom distinction? What's the plan for the gigantic empty basement? What about the loft? Which is the main entrance (the thing that looks like the front door to me also seems like it shows up on the elevation labelled "rear"). Where are the views? How steep is the hill the building is set into and how deeply is the building set into it?

    I would recommend drawing in furniture in all the rooms to better work through how they will be used.

    Drawing some sections to both understand the envelope and how the building relates to the topography is probably a good call.

    Since this is Green Building Advisor, what are the green building related goals of the project?

  2. Expert Member

    User ... 231,

    At first glance I noticed a few small unrelated things:

    - You are missing some floor framing over the kitchen/dining area, between the double-height space and the bonus-trusses.

    - The bonus-trusses are shown with a very small depth at the corner of the room where it meets the roof. Too small for adequate insulation and venting.

    - The floor heights are shown as 8 ft and 9 ft. Pre-cut studs and sheet goods like drywall are sized to give you 8'-1" and 9'-1" from top of subfloor to top of top-plate.

    Good luck with your build!

  3. Aedi | | #3

    Hello user-7294231,

    Any chance you can give us your name? It makes it easier to address people.

    Is there any specific feedback you are looking for? You will get more responses that way, and they'll be more useful. However, most people in this community are not architects (myself included). Your plan will almost certainly have to get approved by an architect in order to build it anyway, so you might as well contract one and ask them for feedback.

    My cursory look didn't reveal any mistakes, and general good green-building practices were exercised on the design (simple shape, simple roof). Quick observations:
    -The bathroom situation on the first floor is a little strange. The half-bath in particular seems a little gratuitous, but everyone has their tastes. It is good that you concentrated your plumbing in one portion of the building, near the water heater.
    -It is unclear to me which door would be considered the main entrance.
    -I am a little skeptical of that large kitchen table, as it seems like it would be annoying to get around when chairs are added -- I'm just eyeballing it though.
    -The overall layout is not handicap-friendly, but unfortunately that is true of most homes.
    -I think you could get away with shrinking this floor plan considerably (10-20%) without losing any function, if you are willing to move another bedroom to the second floor and shift the first floor around.

  4. IrishGuyJohn | | #4

    Responding to the first 3 replies:

    I am a single male, age 63. It will be my weekend retreat. I have 3 married sons who have families, they will visit some. I hunt and will have hunting guests. I am involved in men's ministry and will host retreats of groups of 12 or less. The house was designed around a table for 12 and 3 bedrooms which can house 4 men each [using bunk beds]. The bedroom on the south east corner, next to the great room, is the master bed room.

    The 'empty' basement is going to be a meeting place for up to 12 men at a time. The loft is primarily for grand kids. Most of the time coming in through the lower level/walk out basement will be the main entrance. The house is oriented to the south and slightly west with a beautiful panoramic of a valley I own. The hill is moderately steep and the building will be mostly embanked on the east and west sides and completely on the north side on the lower level.

    The reason for a 3/4 bath and 1/2 bath next to it is to allow multiple guests to have access simultaneously. With 12 men there, one can be showering and another using the 1/2 bath.

    I'm considering having a table that is 2 or even 3 pieces that can be combined to seat 12.

  5. walta100 | | #5

    I do like the square shape of the home and how you kept all the plumbing so close together.
    Things I think do not belong in high performance houses.

    1 One and half story designs. Keeping the indoor air from mixing with the outdoor air in this design requires so much extra work any saving derived from using the space under the roof is eaten up trying to make it airtight.

    2 Cathedral ceiling are risky difficult to insulate well and expensive.

    3 Any window you are not going to be look thru daily. Skip any window present just for passive solar.

    Have you posted this design before it looks familiar?


  6. rockies63 | | #6

    Hello. I'm more into the "design" side of things (as opposed to the engineering side) so I have a few suggestions about your layout.

    I'd decrease the width of your entry (mudroom?) so that the stairway wall aligns with the bedroom door wall (not much sense in having that little jog in the wall). This will pull your stairs over by 6-12 inches and widen your hallway to the bathroom and bedroom. Also narrow the corner bedroom down from 12' 2 1/2" to the same width that you'd have for the middle bedroom (the bathroom vanity, linen cabinet and closet will stay the same width but the hallway will now be wider).

    There isn't much point in having a powder room right next to a full bathroom. I would turn the powder room into a laundry with a washer and linen storage (take out the linen cabinet in the full bathroom and put in a vanity with double sinks). The kitchen wall should be set back 12" from the edge of the new laundry wall and line that wall with bookcases.

    If you move the entry door and the door directly opposite it (in the mudroom) over about 18" you can run a narrow bank of cabinets along the right exterior wall for storage (I'd do lower cabinets with a counter on top for keys, gloves, etc and then upper cabinets).

    You don't need a second linen cabinet in the master bathroom. Put in a double vanity. Move the master bath door into the corner by the bedroom door and change the swing so it opens into the bathroom against the wall. Now you can lengthen the master bedroom closet.

    You do not have enough space for a dining table that wide (people seated in the middle along the wall won't have enough clearance to get past other chairs). I would suggest putting the sink in the island looking into the great room and shortening that run of cabinets so that you gain about 2 feet of width for the dining room..

    And lastly, corner fireplaces are the bane of designers everywhere. It makes laying out furniture really tough. maybe put it along the wall out to the porch (?) and fill in the wall between it and the corner with bookcases.

    One engineering thing, the line of your loft shows that the beam (at the edge of the loft) will end over a window next to the dining table You should move the window so the loft beam ends up supported by a post.

  7. rockies63 | | #7

    Last night I decided to draw out your main floor plan using my architectural software. The exterior walls are 2x6 construction, the interior walls 2x4 and the interior dimensions are "drywall surface to drywall surface". If your original exterior walls are 2x4 construction then the interior room dimensions would be a bit different (exterior dimensions shown are to the centers of the interior walls). Feel free to adjust things any way you want.

    One thing I noted right away were all the little walls jutting out all over the place on the bedroom/bathroom side (that and the jogs in the walls). That creates a lot of extra work for a framing crew so I streamlined the walls and aligned things.

    I also saw that for such a large main floor there wasn't much storage. I left the rooms pretty much where they were but changed some of their entry door locations. I also changed your master bath so you get a window and gave you a large walk through closet (I'd use closet cabinets like those ones from Ikea instead of just open hanging rods). I show space for a 6' tub in both bathrooms (you should have at least one tub in the house in case small children visit) but the other one could be a wide shower. The laundry room could still be a powder room but you don't really need it.

    I added pantry cabinets in the stair hall (with 12 guys you'll need to store a lot of food) and I added a broom closet too.

    The kitchen design shown in the 2nd picture is a classic "U" shape facing the dining table (with a raised bar counter on the great room side). The fridge should be on the end of the cabinet run on the "pantry cabinet wall" side, stove in the middle of the short cabinet run and sink on the peninsula run. If you want even more room between the dining table and the kitchen I would use a long bench along the exterior wall (that will eliminate the space needed to walk behind separate chairs and allow the table to be moved over an extra 2' or so).

    Hope you like some of my ideas. Best of luck with your build.

  8. IrishGuyJohn | | #8

    Thanks Scott. I've been away from viewing for a few days and only just saw your suggestions. I appreciate them very much and am going to study them and incorporate

    I'm being told by the fireplace folks that putting the fireplace on the interior wall, nearer the peak, will improve drafting. I'm still noodling on that element.

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